I recently went with my son to the cinema to watch a movie when I started thinking that for some of my patients with hearing aids, this simple yet enjoyable activity can be a quite a struggle for them.
So why is hearing or rather following speech within a movie such a problem for some people who wear hearing aids and what can be done about? In a nutshell, most cinemas nowadays have what we call a room loop, infrared assistive technology or personal captioning devices available for hard of hearing patrons to make it easier for them. We will discuss the latter two options later in this post, but a room loop essentially is a metal rod with coiled wire around it which is located around the perimeter of a cinema. When current travels along the coiled wired, a magnetic signal is induced which can be picked up by a hearing aid that has a telecoil. A telecoil is a much smaller rod which also contains coiled wire found strategically placed inside a hearing aid. This allows the sound from the movie to be delivered directly to the hearing aid and is usually a much clearer and richer sound experience. Let us take a look at what a telecoil is in more detail and how to tell if your hearing aid has one.
What is a telecoil and does my hearing aid have one?
A telecoil also known as a t-coil (or T switch) is just a small component inside some hearing aids that is actually just a metal rod with a coil of wire around it. Its job is to pick up magnetic signals and convert them into an electrical signal that can be processed by the digital signal processing unit of the hearing aid. Unfortunately, not all hearing aids have this component due to space limitations or other technology such as bluetooth or wireless transceivers being prioritised.
With hearing aids getting smaller, the ability to physically house a t-coil is not always possible. The only way to know if your hearing aid has a telecoil is to ask your Audiologist. There are no identifiable marks on the hearing aid itself that can tell you if it has one or not. Your Audiologist should always give you the option of whether you would like a telecoil with your hearing aid as it has many more uses than just at the cinema.
A telecoil can make it easier to hear at the airport, bus terminal, train, art gallery, on the phone and can be used with some remote microphone devices. So I would argue that a telecoil is a feature that one should not simply disregard. Some of my experienced hearing aid patients who relocate over to our clinic having been seen elsewhere know nothing about telecoils and whether their hearing aid has one or not. They are surprised when I tell them about this feature and how they could have been benefiting from it for a while. What a shame.
I have a telecoil. How do I use it in the cinema?
A telecoil can be accessed by changing settings on your hearing aids. This can usually be done by physically pushing a button (either a rocker switch or a single switch) on your hearing aid or selecting the telecoil setting on your hearing aid remote control or smartphone app. Your hearing aids can be programmed to have different settings for different listening environments or situations. A telecoil setting can easily be programmed into you hearing aid by your Audiologist. If pushing the on-board hearing aid switch, you normally only need to do so on the one hearing aid as this will usually change the setting in both hearing aids simultaneously. You should hear 2 beeps to signify that you are now in the telecoil setting. If you are not sure, contact you Audiologist for specific instructions.
The telecoil can be programmed with either the microphones of the hearing aid switched off completely, dimmed or left on. You will get the best quality telecoil signal if you use it with the hearing aid microphones switched off. However, remember this will mean you may not be able to hear those sitting next to you which may or may not be a good thing 😊.
The next thing you need to consider is where the best place to sit at the cinema is. Although every effort is made by the sound engineers to ensure the room loop signal remains uniform in strength across the cinema, this is not actually possibly. What this means is that there will some seats where the signal will not be picked up as well by your hearing aid and hence the sound will be softer than it should. One way to get around this is to experiment yourself and sit in different positions around the cinema to find out which is giving you the best sound quality. Event Cinema (a Perth cinema chain) says that the best seats to access the room loop in their cinemas is in the middle section up the back. If you are not sure, it is always best to ask the staff at your cinema for help.
What if I don’t have a telecoil? What else can be done with my hearing aid?
Although most people with a hearing loss who wear hearing aids do just fine hearing at a cinema, this is not true for everyone. Cinemas are acoustically designed to enable the sound to be distributed evenly across the space with minimal reverberation to ensure a good quality sound regardless of where you sit. However, a good quality sound is not helpful for someone with a hearing loss if their hearing aids are amplifying it too much or not enough. If you are struggling at the cinema or have stopped going because you no longer enjoy yourself due to poor hearing, there are adjustments that can be made to your hearing aid even if you don’t have a telecoil.
One of the most important things to ensure when setting up a hearing aid for someone is to make sure that the MPO or maximum power output is set appropriately. The MPO is the maximum sound level a hearing aid can amplify too. As an Audiologist, this needs to be set high enough so that loud sounds don’t get clipped when they are amplified to reduce distortion. But we also want to make sure the MPO is set to a point that minimised loud sounds to getting painfully loud once amplified. This is always a balancing act. Chances are that if you are struggling at the cinema, the MPO of your hearing aid is set too low.
There are other tricks up our sleeve as Audiologists but this is a good place to start. Also, some hearing aids have a better dynamic range than others meaning they can amplify a greater range of sound levels without reduced sound quality. This is a feature that is being pushed now by some hearing aid manufacturers such as Signia (Motion P nx) and Phonak (Marvel platform) as they understand the importance of being able to maintain a good sound quality of amplified loud sound such as those experienced at a cinema or musical performance.
Other Cinema Assistive Listening Devices.
If you would like to know if your hearing aid has a telecoil or would simply like us to have a closer look at your hearing aids to optimise them for you, please give us a call on 08 6336 7170 today. You will speak to an Audiologist who can advise you on your next step. If you can’t come to us or are happy where you are, please ask your Audiologist to show you all that your hearing aids can do. You may be missing out on very helpful features to make your day to day communication easier and improve your quality of life.
You may also be interested in:
As a patient, it is easy to just accept the recommendations of a health professional without much thought. Sometimes this is not the best thing to do especially when it comes to Audiologists recommending hearing aids. This article is designed to inform you about what to ask your Audiologist so that you can be more confident that their recommendation is made with your best interest in mind. Below is the 5 questions I would encourage you to ask any Audiologist before investing money into a new pair of hearing aids. If your Audiologist cannot answer these questions, I would get a second opinion.
1. Ask your Audiologist to disclose to you any sales commissions or incentives they operate under.
By asking your Audiologist to disclose any incentive arrangements they have will go a long way to ensuring they only recommend what is clinically appropriate for you in your situation. Their readiness and willingness to divulge this information will tell you if their advice and recommendations is something to trust or be mindful of.
2. If your Audiologist recommends a higher level technology hearing aid, ask them what test results or other clinical information have they used to arrive at their recommendation.
Your Audiologist should be able to explain to you in layman's terms how they arrived at their recommendation and why cheaper hearing aids are not appropriate for you. They should be able to demonstrate or highlight the specific hearing aid features in their recommended device that are designed to help you achieve a specific communication goal of yours. If they cannot, I would be doubtful whether their recommendation is grounded in valid and defensible clinical or scientific reasoning.
3. Ask you Audiologist to explain why the hearing aid they have recommended you is more appropriate than say a similar one from a different brand and whether they have any business agreements in place with their preferred manufacturer.
While it is common for Audiologists and Audiology clinics to have a preferred manufacturer, a lot of Audiology Clinics out there are actually owned and run by a hearing aid manufacturer. This means that your choice of hearing aids is limited to their specific brand. You are entitled to request information about all options available to ensure your investment is both informative and the best for your needs. How unfortunate would it be to spend all this money on a specific hearing aid only to find out that another brand would have been more appropriate.
4. Ask your Audiologist for a trial of the recommended technology before purchasing it.
Trying before you buy can be a great way of determining the potential benefit of the recommended hearing aid. I would recommend trialling at home or in the environments you are having difficulty in. If this is not possible, I would at least ask your Audiologist to simulate these situations and measure your speech perception with the hearing aids in. Ideally it would be good to compare your performance with more basic hearing aids if possible. Although trialling a hearing aid over a day or a week is good, performance can improve over time as your brain gets better at using and extracting meaning from the sounds it hears.
5. Ask you Audiologist for examples or testimonials of patients they have seen to demonstrate to you the outcomes they can achieve.
Although every patient is different, it would build confidence in you to see examples of patients from a variety of background who have purchased basic hearing aids as well as more sophisticated hearing aids to see how they have fared. It would be good to see that your Audiologist is able to help patients obtain good results no matter what hearing aid they choose and that these patients are happy with their results. Sometimes this information is not readily available but most clinics conduct patient satisfaction surveys which can be shared.
Commission Based Hearing Aid Sales - Why This Should Stop
It has been well documented over the last few years of the exploitative behaviour of some in the hearing aid industry who pray on vulnerable seniors and anyone for that matter who require hearing aids (ACCC enquiry, ABC report).
More recently this was again highlighted on Radio National and ABC Perth (1 hr 34 minutes into the drive program). This article will examine the nature of commission based hearing aid sales incentives and 5 ways you as a patient can mitigate it.
See also: How Pristine Hearing goes about helping you choose the right hearing aid
As an Audiologist who has been in the industry for many years now, I have seen sales incentives for Audiologists provided in a few ways. Generally speaking, the most common way to incentivise an Audiologist is to provide them commission in the form of money when a patient purchases a hearing aid they have recommended. This is quite common among the large hearing aid clinic chains who are owned by hearing aid manufacturers. Instead of paying their Audiologists a fixed remuneration like Independent Audiology clinics do, commission from hearing aid sales is added.
Companies will usually use a sliding scale meaning the more expensive hearing aids attract a higher commission compared to the less expensive ones. Below is a table that highlights how much money an Audiologist may make from commissions they receive from hearing aid sales. The commission rate is based on word of mouth and personal experience.
So as can be seen in the table above, these sales incentives are like waiving a carrot in front of a rabbit. You would be crazy to think such a model would not cloud the judgement of some Audiologists recommending hearing aids to their patients.
Another model that is used by some clinics is to provide the same commission rate regardless of the hearing aid purchased. So for example a rate of 6% maybe used across all hearing technologies. Although on face value this seems better, in reality it still serves as a way to interfere with Audiology hearing aid recommendations as a more expensive hearing aid will still attract a higher commission. In other words, 6% of a larger number is still more than 6% of a smaller number so the incentive is their to recommend a more costly hearing aid.
Let's look at an example. Let's say John, a 68 year old gentleman, goes to an Audiologist for help searching for hearing aids. His Audiologist performs the standard hearing tests and asks John about his background to get a feel for his situation. When it come to discussing hearing aids, John is told that he needs one of the better hearing aids available. John, not being the questioning type, accepts this recommendation. Being a more expensive hearing aid, John's Audiologist is set to pocket a larger commission compared to the lesser amount had more basic hearing aids been recommended.
The question here is has this carrot waiving sales incentive in the form of a commission clouded the judgement and device recommendation made by the Audiologist? I recently had a patient who told me his brother had purchased hearing aids from a national audiology chain 4 years ago. His brother paid a lot of money for these hearing aids but was told by his Audiologist not long ago that he needed better hearing aids already. There was no clear justification provided for this which I was aghast at. Such blatant mistreatment of patients is something our industry needs to stamp out.
Coming back to other sales incentive programs that have been used in the industry include providing trips for staff who "sell" the most hearing aids as well as other competitions. Companies I have worked for in the past would run competitions between clinics to push the selling of higher level technology hearing aids and assistive listening devices. I found this kind of environment counter productive and did not highlight or acknowledge Audiologists who would simply recommend devices based on defensible clinical reasoning and who consistently obtained great outcomes for their clients irrespective of the devices they had chosen.
I'm not saying that all Audiologists who work with these kind of sales incentives are compromised. All I am saying is why take the risk. Audiology as a profession needs to move away from any kind of sales incentive model and rather focus solely on better patient outcomes. Hearing aids are a medical device and should be recommended or prescribed based on need and specific clinical and medical factors. As soon as our profession bans sales incentives of any kind, the sooner ALL patients can feel like their Audiologists have their best interest in mind.
To this end, Audiology Australia recently put out a public statement relating to their position around commission based hearing aid sales. This can be read here but a summary is provided below.
Audiology Australia, in our response, has called for commissions linked to sales of hearing aids to end...Audiology Australia continues to support the ACCC’s 2017 recommendation that the industry needs to prioritise remuneration structures that reward service and quality advice ahead of sales."
I am very pleased with Audiology Australia's position on this which is far more definitive than any of their positions in the past. I do however, welcome stronger regulation from them in this regard. Audiology Australia also has a complaints handling system that patients can access if they feel they have been given questionable advice from an Audiologist.
Independent Audiologist Australia (IAA) is an organisation that represents the owners of Independent Audiology Clinics in Australia of which I am one. Their position is similar to Audiology Australia and go on to say that "commissions or bonuses contribute to high hearing device costs, create conflicts of interest and are not usually transparent to patients or their referring doctors." For more details about IAA's position as well as other negative factors associated with commission based hearing aid sales, visit the link here. IAA also placed an advertorial in the online Seniors Newspaper recently which comes down hard on those clinics who still use these incentive schemes and promotes that patients only go to Independent Audiology Clinics for unbiased ethical advice regarding their hearing. I recommend you reading this article here.
If you are patient needing help with your hearing and are likely to need a hearing aid I would recommend you go to an Independent Audiology Clinic like Pristine Hearing who unashamedly promotes their clinic as a SALES COMMISSION or SALE INCENTIVE free zone. I know I would feel more comfortable in that kind of clinic as well as feel more confident in any recommendations made to me by their Audiologist.
If for whatever reason you can not be seen by an Audiologist from an Independent Audiology Clinic, the above list of 5 questions you should ask your Audiologist should keep you in good stead.
Not one to pump up our own tyres but Pristine Hearing is a proud Independent Audiology Clinic that does not have any sale commissions or incentives which could cloud our hearing aid recommendations or any device for that matter. Our only incentive is good patient outcomes. This means our recommendations are usually made in conjunction with the individual and/or family and have clear clinical reasoning behind it. We will usually educate our patients about hearing devices from multiple brands and highlight the key features that are relevant and are connected to a communication goal the patient is trying to achieve. We conduct clinical tests that are necessary for building a picture of the patient's physical hearing abilities to determine likely outcome with basic versus more sophisticated hearing aids. Lastly, Pristine Hearing offers FREE trials and a 60 day MONEY BACK guarantee to give our patients piece of mind.
If you would like the privilege of being seen at Pristine Hearing to achieve the hearing results you deserve, call 08 6336 7170 or book online today.
You may also be interested in:
Battery technology in hearing aids have undergone interesting changes and development over the years. In fact, this can be generalised to all devices and technologies. If we just take a look at our mobile phones, this fact is blatantly obvious.
The size of the batteries have needed to keep pace with the miniaturisation of mobile phones while at the same time, improve on capacity and discharge time. We all know that mobile phones or smartphones rather, do more than they have ever done before and yet battery life continues to amaze.
One aspect to smartphones that has necessitated the improvement to battery life is the concept of wireless connectivity and more specifically Bluetooth technology. This wireless protocol has typically been renowned for sucking the life out of phone batteries. However, with smart changes to this universal communication protocol coupled with improvements to battery technology, staying connected to other devices wirelessly with your phone can be done for longer without requiring your phone battery to be recharged.
Of course, we would all still like for the battery life of our phones to last longer but this has definitely come a long way over the years -- even last 5 years.
When the first electronic/analogue hearing aids first came out from 1920-1950, they were big bulky devices that were body worn with the ear piece attached to a wire. The necessity for body worn aids was due to the large battery requirements and was also seen in the first cochlear implants.
The next step was to make the battery and hearing aid small enough so that the hearing aid could be worn on the ear. This was important for not only cosmetics by audiological reasons. Having the hearing aid on the ears instead of on the body ensures that the microphones pick up the sound where our ears would naturally do so. This helps with localisation cues as well as assists with hearing in noise.
This step towards miniaturisation occurred when the transistor was invented at Bell's Telephone Laboratories in 1948 with a hearing aid version developed in 1952. Essentially a transistor controls the flow and magnitude of electric current.Transistor technology was a blast and 200,000 of these hearing aids were sold in 1953 alone.
When transistors were able to be made with silicon towards the late 20th century, miniaturisation of hearing aids continued further and digital hearing aids became prolific.
Besides enabling intelligent processing of sounds and improving sound audibility and comfort in general, digital technology has enabled the reduction of battery consumption and as such, the hearing aid battery size could be reduced.
Nowadays the batteries size of hearing aids is contingent on the power output requirements of the hearing aid. This is in turn dependent on the degree of hearing loss of a patient. In general, the greater the hearing loss, the larger the battery you will need and hence size of hearing aid to accommodate the power requirements of the sound that needs to be delivered.
Disposable zinc air hearing aid batteries that are used today (from largest to smallest) include 675, 13, 312 and p10. These have served patients well over the decades but if you are a hearing aid wearer, you may have experienced some frustration with them.
They tend to have great variability in terms of how long each one lasts for. Size 13 batteries typically will last 10-14 days although some of our patients will get only 3-4 days out of them. Sometimes this is because there is current leakage within the hearing aid and suggests they would benefit from a hearing aid service or repair. Often, however, the battery itself is to blame.
Zinc air batteries like most disposable batteries work by creating energy from a chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen enters small vents. To improve the life of these batteries, we tend to recommends our patients not insert the new battery straight away but to leave them exposed to the air (or oxygen) for 5 minutes first. This allows the chemical reactions within the battery to become fully realised.
Disposable batteries also pose a problem for hearing aid user ill-equipped to handle small objects. This could be due to dexterity problems arising from arthritis or other inhibiting factor. As such, maintaining one's own sense of independence can be very difficult if hearing aids are required but you cannot change the batteries yourself. This scenario and others necessitated the advent of hearing aids that could use rechargeable batteries.
Hearing aid manufacturers brought out hearing aids that could have rechargeable batteries in size 13 or 312 to make it easier AND more convenient for hearing aid users. These hearing aids came out around 6-8 years ago and were very successful at addressing these issues.
Unfortunately with the improvements to other technologies since and the changes to how we use our smartphones has meant that the original rechargeable hearing aid battery solution wouldn't cut the mustard in the year 2019. The need to be able stream music, phone calls and other audio while being connected to your phone or other devices wirelessly using Bluetooth meant that rechargeable batteries in hearing aids would lose their charge too quickly (e.g. within 6 hours). Having to recharge your hearing aid (batteries) every 6 hours is and was not ideal.
The goal for rechargeable batteries for use within hearing aids is to provide full day use/charge while using the hearing aids for activities such as streaming with Bluetooth. This has only been made possible within the last 18 months (mid 2017) with the release of fully integrated lithion-ion battery technology. This is exactly the same technology used with our smartphones and is not wonder it has been adopted within the hearing aid fraternity.
All hearing aid manufacturers have brought out rechargeable hearing aid solutions using fully integrated lithium-ion technology. This means that there is no longer any battery compartment on the hearing aid itself. This can improve the the longevity of the hearing aid as there are less entry points for dust and moisture to damage delicate electronic components.
Most manufacturers claim their rechargeable hearing aid solutions are the best but lets look more closely. Signia (Siemen's) Charge&Go options claim that their hearing aids have a daily run time of 19 hours without streaming and 17 hours with streaming after a full charge. They also say these hearing take 3-4 hours to fully charge which is quite quick. There predecessors would take around 6 hours to fully charge. Charge&Go options come in the traditional behind-the-ear and receiver-in-the ear style of hearing aid.
Signia also brought out a new stylish receiver-in-the-canal hearing aid (or mini RIC) that is rechargeable but where the recharger does not need to be plugged into the mains power supply (see top image to this post). You can use the recharger for up to 3 days without needing to plug it in to be recharged itself. This is great for people who go camping or who don't necessarily have access to a power point say on a trip.
see also: Different hearing aid styles.
Phonak similarly has rechargeable options. Their Audeo M R receiver in the canal hearing aids are their pride and joy. It was just released late 2018 and is the only hearing aid on the market, at this stage, that is compatible with Android and iphone smartphones.
They claim that it can take up to 3 hours to fully charge their hearing aids which seems comparable to Signia. They also say that the hearing aids are 50% charged in just one hour which is very convenient. They have similar discharging times to the Signia aids too.
Their chargers come in 2 sizes with one being quite small that can even be plugged into your computer/laptop for charging. They also have lithium-ion rechargeable options in their super-power hearing aid range which is great news for people with a severe-profound hearing loss who also want the convenience of rechargeable batteries.
Other manufacturers have similar solutions. No doubt hearing aid technology and battery options will continue to astound. We are living in exciting times and hearing aids of the future will do much more than just improve audibility of sound.
If you are excited and would like to trial the latest hearing aids technologies available, we welcome you. Please call 08 6336 7170 to arrange a suitable time with one of our Audiologists.
With 2019 only hours away, millions of people around Australia will be converging on the major cities to get the best vanatage point to see the amazing fireworks display their city has to offer. If you've ever experienced this, time stands still and seconds last for minutes while the ever present fireworks displays pierce the night sky. Sound Amazing?
Well as far as looks are concerned, fireworks definitely look amazing. Sound is a different kettle of fish and is what this article is concerned with. In recent times, researches and Audiologist alike have raised the profile of the need to protect one's ears from excessive loud noise. If you have ever been to a rock concert you will know what I'm talking about.
In fact research shows that any sound from about 85 decibels and above will start to damage our ears. As the level of sound increases above this level, the accumulative damage occurs over a shorter period of time. In other words, 100 decibels of noise exposure will do the same damage as 85 decibels over a shorter period of time. So the question I hear you asking yourself: will the fireworks display damage my hearing?
Well firstly, if you are concerned, the easiest way to still enjoy the night's festivities is to bring along some plugs (which you can get from the chemist) or even bluetak to put in your ears just before the strike of midnight.
The best thing to do (too late for tonight) but to get custom ear plugs made from an Audiologist which can attenuate sound by up to 30-40 decibels across all frequencies.
The truth of the matter is yes, fireworks are loud enough to do damage to the fine structures of your inner ear including the finite number of inner and outer hair cells within the cochlear. Distance is a HUGE part to play and the greater the distance the less damage you can expect.
The World Health Organization says that hearing loss from loud noise (or noise induced hearing loss) is reaching epidemic proportions in wealthier nations and recommend that adults avoid sounds louder than 140 decibels of maximum sound pressure.
Fireworks and firecrackers can exceed 150 decibels. As we just mentioned, sounds from about 85 decibels will start doing accumulative damage although louder sounds will do instant irreversible damage to your ears.
Here are a few more tips to protect your hearing tonight:
For more information about hearing loss, please visit this website here. There is also a website that can tell you if your current lifestyle is doing damage to your hearing at knowyournoise.nal.gov.au
If you feel you have damaged your hearing due to loud noise, the best thing to do is get a thorough hearing assessment.
Stay safe and wishing everyone a healthy and awesome 2019.
keywords: noise induced hearing loss, custom ear plugs, fireworks, tinnitus, ringing ears, unsafe noise, NYE
So, you've been told that your hearing is not the best and that it is time for hearing aids. Your Audiologist has given you a breakdown of the different hearing aid technologies and styles and has selected hearing aids for you that will cost somewhere between $6000-$9000 for a pair. You silently gasp and the following questions enter your mind.
Do I really need these hearing aids?
How am I going to afford such hearing aids?
I have friends who spend this kind of money on hearing aids but they end up in the drawer. Will this happen to me?
This scenario plays out hundreds of times a day all over Australia and this article is designed to shed some light for you about the true differences in performance among the basic vs more sophisticated hearing aids and whether this difference is something that will actualise in a physical benefit for you.
It is true that not all hearing aids are created equally and for that matter, neither are we. Although we can take valuable lessons away from seeing what our family and friends have experienced in the hearing aid terrain, it is not helpful nor correct to compare the performance of someone with one type of hearing aid to someone else.
Hearing loss like any physical disability is a personal thing and effects everyone differently. Therefore you shouldn't expect to see someone perform exactly the same as someone else even if they have the identical type and degree of hearing loss.
The main factors that will impact the efficacy of hearing aids for anyone are:
Age, degree of hearing loss, type of hearing loss, how long someone has had a hearing loss without treating it, how long a person has worn hearing aids for as well as cognitive factors such as auditory processing problems.
As an example, you would expect a younger person to perform better with simpler more basic hearing aids compared to someone who is more advanced in years. This is because as we get older, cognitive factors increase meaning we become less effective at extracting useful auditory information from what we hear. This problem is of course compounded in noisier and more echoey environments.
So the question still remains. Do you need to invest in more sophisticated hearing aids which unfortunately have a high price point? The answer to this is well it depends.
It depends on how much value you put on better hearing. It depends on how often you are in situations where better hearing aids could be more effective for you. It depends on how much your hearing loss is effecting your life and whether it is either preventing you from or reducing your enjoyment of social interactions that add to your quality of life. Ultimately it will depend on all these factors but most importantly it will depend on what you value in life and your lifestyle.
Someone who spends a lot of time at home with minimal noise probably won't receive enough benefit from a more sophisticated hearing aid to warrant its expense. On the other hand, if you are the kind of person who frequently attends meetings, social gatherings, parties, dinners, restaurants, work engagements and the like, better hearing from better hearing aids in these more demanding situations is probably going to be going to be more beneficial and valuable to you.
So what will I be getting if I spend more money on better hearing aids I hear you ask? Well, what sets hearing aids apart as we move from the basic tier to the more sophisticated levels include: sound quality, performance in noise (e.g. car/restaurant), performance in echo (e.g. large solid floor hall), performance in wind/outdoors (e.g. being able to hear someone while strolling in the wind), automation (e.g. being able to select a cluster of settings or features depending on your listening environment automatically), connect-ability (e.g. smartphone, TV, remote mic), flexibility (e.g. how much customisation can occur), size (e.g. CICs, IICs and smaller RICs), usability (e.g. rechargeable batteries) and sound comfort (e.g. feedback and loud noise management). A hearing aids ability to help with tinnitus relief also improves as we move up the levels.
Only with a thorough hearing assessment including speech testing in noise and a complete understanding of where you would like to see improvements can a clinical recommendation for hearing aids be made. Ideally this should be with a University trained Audiologist who has industry experience and can skilfully match your audiological needs with the most appropriate treatment options.
At Pristine Hearing, we also recommend trials of the various hearing aid technologies so that you as a patient can truly know whether one option is going to work for you or not. We also offer an industry leading 60 day return period for all hearing aid purchases so you can have the piece of mind you deserve with such an investment.
To speak to one of our dedicated and experienced Audiologist today or to book a FREE hearing aid trial, please call (08) 6336 7170 or fill out the form below.
Hearing aids can help reduce the impact a hearing loss has on an individual's ability to communicate and engage effectively with the world around them.
Hearing aids however are no alternative to natural hearing and cannot fully bring back ones hearing to how it used to be. At the end of the day, they are an aid and just like a walking aid will not enable a person to run a marathon, the expectations that hearing aids will bring back ones hearing to normal must be discussed.
This even goes for the expensive hearing aids that claim to improve hearing in noise and more complicated or demanding environments. However, despite the inherent limitations of hearing aids, they are a useful device if one knows how to use them effectively.
This post will highlight some simple strategies and ways to get the most out of your hearing aids. Why does this matter? Well, for a lot of people, a great deal of expense both monetarily and time-wise has gone into hearing aids and wanting to hear better. Why not get the most out of this investment. Not only will you benefit, but those around you will greatly appreciate it to.
Firstly we need to ask ourselves, how do we hear? We hear with a combination of both our ears and our brain. Sound enters our body via our ear canals (for the majority of people), gets converted into mechanical energy in our middle ear via our ear drum and ossicles (3 small bones in the middle ear) which in turn creates fluid movement in the cochlear at specific locations corresponding to the frequencies present in the sound.
The cochlear then converts this mechanical energy into an electrical signal that gets sent to our brain (the auditory cortex) via our auditory nerve. It is then up to our brain to process and interpret these sounds so that they become meaningful to us.
Unfortunately, a hearing loss can occur anywhere along this pathway and can sometimes involve multiple locations. For example, a person may simultaneously have a perforated ear drum (conductive hearing loss) and cochlear damage (sensorineural hearing loss).
This will both attenuate and distort sounds entering the auditory system. Alternatively, you may have a person who has a combination of a cochlear loss and due to ageing, is unable to process sounds as efficiently in the brain. Even with hearing aids, this kind of person may still struggle particularly in noisy situations.
So what can you do? Our brain is a muscle so the more you use it, the better it gets at doing a specific task. If hearing aids have been prescribed to you, the most important thing you can do to get the most out of them is to WEAR them as often as possible.
This will provide the hearing parts of the brain with regular stimulation to the important speech sounds required for speech understanding.
The more the brain engages with these sounds, the better it gets at extracting meaningful information from them. As an audiologist, I often get asked by people 'how often should I wear my hearing aids as I am home by myself during the day and I only really need them when I go out?'
Well, my response is that if they want to hear well with their hearing aids when they need them, they should wear their hearing aids when they don't need them. Even a few hours during the day (particularly when watching TV) will help.
The next thing to do is make sure the sound leaving the hearing aid and travelling down your ear canal is not interfered with by wax. Wax can prevent sound from clearly travelling down your ear canal and hence will reduce the effectiveness of your hearing aids.
The easiest way to manage wax is to use a few drops of olive oil in each ear once a month (some people may need to use more and apply it more often).
Hearing aid users tend to have a higher propensity of wax occlusion problems owing to the fact that they have something in their ears which interferes with the ear's natural self-cleansing mechanism. Therefore, often olive oil by itself will not be enough to clear the wax.
The safest, gentlest and most effective way to remove wax is to get a trained clinician to use gentle microsuction which is what we offer here at Pristine Hearing. This is the preferred approach used by Ear, Noise and Throat Specialists for a reason.
Wax can also get into the hearing aids so it is also important to be vigilant with cleaning them. Its a good idea to brush all over the hearing aids including the microphones which may become blocked with dust.
Some hearing aids even come with their own wax management systems in the form of wax guards which need to be changed every couple of months.
If you have not been shown how to do this, ask you audiologist next time you see them or you are welcome to be shown this by our friendly staff whenever you are available. At the end of the day, not having clean ears or clean hearing aids is like getting dental work done on your teeth but then not brushing them or keeping them clean.
Finally, the last thing needed to get the most out of your hearing aids requires some assistance from others.
Your family and friends need to understand that the best way to communicate with you is by gaining your attention first, reducing their distance to you and to make sure they are facing you when they speak.
In noise, most hearing aids are designed to focus towards the front which means to hear at your best in these situations, make sure that most of the noise is behind you and the person you want to hear is in front of you.
I have to stress here that even once all that I have said is applied, for some individuals with a hearing impairment they will still find it difficult in the more demanding listening environments like a restaurant.
Sometimes the distortional aspect of ones hearing loss (which can include auditory processing issues) is just too great for hearing aids to overcome.
More sophisticated hearing aids certainly have a greater chance at providing assistance but one does need to have realistic expectations. It may even be difficult for people with 'normal' hearing.
Some environments are just too demanding. I know I struggle hearing my wife sometimes (maybe not enough) in the car especially when travelling at fast speeds.
For some people, remote microphone systems are the only viable way to provide auditory information in the form of speech directly from the source via a remote microphone to their hearing aids when the listening situation becomes too complex.
Every patient will have different physical abilities and varying listening needs. Your Audiologist should always provide you with workable solutions that are geared at improving your hearing where you need it. Together you should see improvements with perseverance and due diligence.
And thats it!!!
I hope by reading this post, you have a greater appreciation about the intricacies of our ears and the way we hear as well as the role hearing aids can play to help reduce the impact of hearing loss. Stay tuned for our next post.
To arrange an appointment with our Audiologist to discuss ways to improve your hearing or to get the most out of your hearing aid/s, call (08) 6336 7170 or visit here.
Michael is a very thorough and experienced Audiologist who takes pride in ensuring his patients are listened to, valued, respected and achieve the best results possible. He has worked as a Senior Audiologist seeing a broad case load from young infants right up to complex adults who require more specialised audiological care and management. Apart from Audiology, Michael has a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from The University of Melbourne. When you see Michael for a consultation, you will wonder why you never saw him sooner.